By WENDI A. MALONEY
Anne Mlod, a central New York school librarian, has attended every National Book Festival since 2003. Each year, she chaperones a busload of students well-prepared to meet their favorite authors and ask questions.
“I appreciate the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students,” Mlod says. “It’s very exciting for me.”
The tradition started when Mlod was director of the Weedsport Free Library in Weedsport, N.Y. Her daughter, then in fourth grade, organized the Junior Friends of the Weedsport Library for third-to-eighth graders.
The National Book Festival was the group’s second excursion; it was so popular, young book enthusiasts from the area have returned year after year. Now that Mlod is a librarian at nearby Genesee Elementary School, students from there also come along.
Before traveling, Mlod tells students about the authors who will appear at the festival and encourages the students to research authors of interest. Last year, a local newspaper reporter coached the students on interviewing. They received press passes and interviewed festival authors, writing an article for the local newspaper.
Other educators also have made the festival a habit. Cathy Fager, Michele Munski and Doris Waud of the Rush-Henrietta School District in Rochester, N.Y., have attended most years since 2003, after their former colleague Gail Petri accepted a position as educational outreach specialist at the Library of Congress.
“We love the book festival for the way it spurs our thinking and gives us ideas for our own creativity,” says TraditionFlager, a special education teacher.
This year, the Rush-Henrietta trio especially enjoyed Tomie dePaola; William Joyce; Garrison Keillor; and Carmen Agra Deedy and John McCutcheon, a married couple who appeared jointly.
“The festival has a direct effect on my work as a school media specialist,” Munski says, explaining that being able to tell students special details about favorite authors helps build enthusiasm for reading.
Waud, a kindergarten teacher, is the group’s photographer; the Library of Congress has selected her pictures from past festivals for its website.
“I love how it’s all put together,” she says of the festival. “I love learning about books and how authors develop them. It gives me inspiration for my job.”
Teachers and librarians are not the only regulars at the book festival.
Dawn Malcolm of Anoka, Minn., attended her first festival in 2010 with a friend from Prince William County in Virginia.
“I loved it. There was no question I would come again,” she says.
This year, Dawn says she especially enjoyed Keillor, a fellow native of Anoka. She persuaded an avid reader friend from Minnesota to make the trip with her.
“We’ll be back,” she says.
Wendi A. Maloney is a writer-editor in the U.S. Copyright Office.